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The Many Faces of Noel Gallagher and His High Flying Birds

todayOctober 31, 2022

Background

Leaving a band you spent most of your life creating is one of the hardest things a musician can ever do. In August 2009, when Noel Gallagher left his famed rock group Oasis mere minutes before a sold-out gig, the music world seemed to pause.

Celebrating the release of his new single, “Pretty Boy”, let’s retrace our steps and go back the way we came with Noel Gallagher and the group that put the air back into his creative lungs, the High Flying Birds.

1. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2011)

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (2011)
Photo © Sour Mash Records Ltd., The Island Def Jam Music Group

It was only after songs began leaking online that Noel’s first solo venture was announced: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and an album of the same name. It was set for release on October 17, 2011.

“[Going solo was] not a decision that I took lightly. I’d been in [Oasis] since ’91, and so it was 20 whatever years it was,” Gallagher told Rolling Stone. “And I’d written every meaningful song that was ever recorded by Oasis. And it was my life, I mean, I directed it creatively, it was my thing.”

The first single, entitled “The Death of You And Me”, very much pleased fans. Unlike his former band-mate and brother Liam Gallagher’s group at the time, Beady Eye, who were formed, to quote the man himself, a “mere five minutes” after Oasis’ split, Noel didn’t jump straight into anything. This wasn’t hard guitar rock. It wasn’t quite acoustic either, but featured instruments that would be rejected at the door for Oasis recordings. The themes located inside the High Flying Birds’ gate-fold welcomed change. There was no longing. There was no memory.

Writer’s Highlights: “If I Had A Gun…”, “(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine”, “A Simple Game of Genius”

2. Chasing Yesterday (2015)

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds Chasing Yesterday (2015)
Photo © Sour Mash Records Ltd.

“I’m going to give you an analogy here,” Noel told VOGUE Magazine, “If you could sum up my career with films, Oasis was a cross between ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’. It was all about the struggle and the chaos. My first solo album was like ‘Titanic’. It was a love story. This part of my career is like a really cool TV series, like ‘Breaking Bad’.”

After a massively successful world tour, the band announced their second record, Chasing Yesterday, to be released on February 25, 2015. Completely self-produced, its lead single, “In The Heat of The Moment” (which you may recognize from Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy”) continues to be Noel’s highest streamed single. The album, overall, is even more stripped-down, some songs sounding like they’re from a jazz festival. Oasis fans would still be pleased though, as songs like “Lock All The Doors” and (ironically titled) “You Know We Can’t Go Back” lean back into that familiar guitar sound. Much like The Beatles ending Revolver with the prodigious “Tomorrow Never Knows”, Gallagher closes with the bohemian sound of “The Ballad of The Mighty I”, something he has not been able to reproduce since.

Writer’s Highlights: The Dying of The Light, The Ballad of The Mighty I (Short-Film)

3. Who Built The Moon? (2017)

Noel Gallagher's Who Built the Moon? (2017)
Photo © Sour Mash Records Ltd.

Similar to David Bowie dawning his bleach-blonde hair for Let’s Dance, I’d recommend having your dancing shoes prepared for 2017’s Who Built The Moon?; a complete shake-up of the norm. The third High Flying Birds album was a psychedelic dance record that replaced thoughtful lyrics for thumping bass lines. Produced by electronic musician David Holmes, the album rewrote Gallagher’s wheel…for better or for worse.

When asked about the massive change, Noel told The Face, “First, [I began] writing in the studio. [Holmes said], ‘Don’t come into the studio with any ideas. If you have any, keep ​em at home.’ […] The next thing was, […] I picked up the guitar. And he said, ​’Answer me this: why do you always pick up the guitar first?’ ‘Cause I’m a […] guitarist.’ ​’Well, let’s leave that. Can you play the keyboards?’ ​’Not really’. ​’Great, let’s start with that.’

To this day, Who Built The Moon? divides fans. However, B-side turned bonus track “Dead In The Water” is one song that seemingly reunited everyone. It was recorded without Noel’s knowledge, thinking he was simply being sound checked for an acoustic show. It is the man himself singing for his own ears in a dark, empty room. It was quickly re-discovered and added to the album’s main track-list.

Writer’s Highlights: Dead In The Water (Live at RTE 2FM Studios, Dublin)

4. The EP Trilogy (2019-2020) + Back The Way We Came Vol. 1 (2021)

Photos © Sour Mash Records Ltd.

Not necessarily linked, 2019 and 2020 saw Noel Gallagher release three different extended plays: Black Star DancingThis Is The Place, and Blue Moon Rising. Citing U2, INXS, Queen, and ZZ Top (?!) as influences for this new material, the 9 total new songs are straight out of your favorite nightclub. It treads the same path as Who Built The Moon? with its techno, dance material, but strays even further into the multicolored moon with songs like “Rattling Rose” and “Evil Flower”.

In 2021, after career radio silence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw the release of Back The Way We Came Vol. 1 (2011-2021), a distant cousin of The Bee-Gee’s iconic Best of The Bee-Gees. Nothing more than your basic compilation record, two new songs, “We’re On Our Way Now” and “Flying On The Ground” perked the ears of those Noel had lost along his past few releases.

Writer’s Highlights: We’re On Our Way NowA Dream Is All I Need To Get By

5. ??? (2023)

Photo by Matt Crockett.
Photo by Matt Crockett.

Noel Gallagher has teased his fan-base for five years now about an upcoming record. He’s hinted about writing more and more songs on the acoustic guitar, digging further into his disco chapter, and even covering solo John Lennon material.

On Halloween morning 2022, he released the first single, “Pretty Boy”. It’s dark, mysterious, and the most contemporary work of either Gallagher brother. In a press release, Noel wrote: “For this new record it was the first thing I wrote, the first thing I demoed and the first thing I finished, so it’s only right that it’s the first thing people get to hear. Massive shout out to my mainest man Johnny Marr for taking it somewhere special. NG”

 

Written by: Jace

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